Chagrined, I become obsessed with acquiring another certification, in another realm of taste. I pay $120 to Ecole Chocolat, an online chocolate school, to enroll in its Mastering Chocolate Flavor certificate program. I enjoy good chocolate, and I was fascinated by the complexity and craftsmanship of chocolatiers on a trip to Brussels a few years earlier. I understand that chocolate can be “single origin” and demonstrate the concept of “terroir” just like wine and coffee — and honey. So I pay my money, unlock the study material, and am immediately overwhelmed with a dump of information: the origins of chocolate, cacao and cacao trees; how flavor works, both physiologically and in chocolate; the elements of chocolate flavor. We are encouraged to buy a textbook, co-written by Ecole Chocolat’s founder, titled “Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate.” The course is to be self-directed, with weekly tasting assignments — the first being a general exercise on sweet, sour, salty, bitter, fatty and umami, and the others comparing two or more chocolate bars. Students post to a group forum, with feedback from our Flavor Coach. “My primary question is how to classify ‘what is good,’ ” posts one of my classmates. To which our Flavor Coach replies: “Many folk in the industry have their own opinions about what ‘good’ chocolate is. Here’s mine (for the moment): ‘Good’ is a chocolate with no overpowering faults that is pleasant and sparks your interest. That leaves things pretty wide open, doesn’t it?”

I went to Whisk today after working out and thought I'd treat myself with Toasted Cornbread ($6) and a Adobo Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($17), as well as a Diet Coke ($2.50, for a can). The Toasted Cornbread had three large pieces, but unfortunately the first piece I touched was cold. Mistakes inevitably happen, so it was no big deal and so I told my waiter. He apologized, took the plate and asked me if I'd like another order, which I did because of the workout lol. The second batch of cornbread however still missed the mark. The problem with heating up cold stored corn bread is that it can dry up unless you heat it the correct way. The corn bread was unfortunately dry and crumbled at the touch, lacking the texture you'd hope. The flavors were there however for classic corn bread.
I am not ready to admit how effortlessly I attained this certification until, one evening, I find myself at Anxo Cidery, the epicenter of Washington’s cider scene, in Northwest D.C. Anxo required all of its front-of-house staff to become CCPs, and I am chatting with two bartenders about how I’ve passed the exam. They both also recently passed. “That exam was so easy,” one bartender tells me. “I took it when I was drunk.”
Sink your teeth into sweet foods from every corner of the globe - gummy candy, licorice, marzipan, ginger candy, gum, mints and chocolate bars in every flavor - along with novelty candy perfect for party favors and gifts. Satisfy your sweet tooth with an array of cakes and cookies, from Dutch wafers and Italian cakes to Scottish shortbread and British biscuits. You can also whip up your own tasty treats from our wide range of baking products - we have tempting baking mixes for breads, cakes and breakfast foods, along with plenty of pretty, practical bakeware to bake them in.
Local restaurateurs Johnny and Jimmy Tung (Sticky Rice, Chela Tequila & Tacos) continue Bento’s wayward expansion with the latest outpost opening inside the revamped Centre of Winter Park. Bento’s gleaming interior comprise the du rigueur components of today’s modern restaurant, and patrons appear to be dazzled by it as much as the menu. A pan-Asian free-for-all of sushi rolls, rice/noodle/poke bowls, soups and, of course, bento boxes is really no different than any other Bento, but the newness of its presence in Winter Park has gastronomes agog.
Since I just spent a year writing a book about cider, the first credential I seek out is to become a Certified Cider Professional (or CCP), a brand-new professional title created by the United States Association of Cider Makers. I attended an introductory seminar on the CCP Level 1 exam at CiderCon in Baltimore in the winter of 2018. The following summer, one afternoon on a whim — without any further study — I decide to log in to the cider association website, pay $75 and take the exam. There are 60 questions on apple history, apple classifications and genetics, cidermaking techniques, styles of cider, detecting flaws, and food pairings with cider. I submit my answers, then find out instantaneously that I’ve gotten 89 percent correct — a passing grade. It has taken me 37 minutes 47 seconds to complete the exam, which includes the interruption of a 15-minute work call. I am now proudly a Level 1 Certified Cider Professional — a cider sommelier. I receive a felt CCP patch in the mail — one that I might have proudly ironed onto my acid-washed jean jacket back in the ’80s. Within months, I am teaching cider classes to candidates who also hope to pass the CCP Level 1 test.
Who invented "Florida cuisine?" We're not sure if the first person to smoke mullet and smear it on a cracker graduated from culinary school, but we do know that if a name jumps out for having raised the bar (and this is NOT to underplay the importance or deliciousness of basic smoked fish dip on any level), it's surely Norman Van Aken. His skills with the Sunshine State's oceanic bounty are on full display at 1921, where you might find barrelfish or striped bass or some other tender-flaky offering, but those less inclined to opt for the raw bar will find plenty of other options, from a "Koreatown" take on fried chicken and mac to a succulent wagyu ribeye to a juicy burger with house bacon and a zingy horseradish cream.
Why go: Although originally set up in Key West, Santiago’s now boasts two additional locations in Orlando, each with a particular personality. This communal spot embodies the sharing mentality behind Spanish-style small plates. Come here with a large group to sample the breadth of the menu but make sure not to leave before really delving into the space’s look. The reclaimed wood bar top, stained glass windows, Gaudi-esque furniture and one-of-a-kind artwork all over the restaurant make it that much more special.
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